I’ve been feeling some sort of way about Ye’s gradual transition into what he represents today. I’m usually the type of person who (attempts to) dodge the media’s penetration into every minute of my day, and I’ve recently made conscious efforts to remove myself from social media’s trance, but my very good friends can’t help but to indulge me with what’s been up with the latest Yeezy shenanigans.
Back in May of this year, I was browsing The Atlantic, trying my best to look incredibly busy at my soul-sucking 9-to-5 when Ta-Nehisi Coates’, “I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye” article fell upon my lap or screen, I should say. And before I knew it, I was feeling mournful.
When I was a shorty, Ye’s College Dropout was a turning point in my love affair with rap. You couldn’t catch me without my portable CD player bumping, “We Don’t Care” and singing every single lyric. I was a young blossoming Ye whore, in love with the soulful, oldie samples that Yeezy seemed to easily weave through his music along with those relatable cadences.
Catch me at school, and I was the chubby brown girl sporting the jersey dress and white high-top Air Force One’s, reciting every word to “Spaceship,” his hauntingly beautiful take on Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover,” in the cafeteria.
But it wasn’t just Ye’s beats that lured me to sample-heaven, it was his words that peaked the interest of a budding militant side. He sounded courageous, speaking, rapping on topics that other rappers danced around.
Obviously and clearly, as time moved on, Ye’s philosophy morphed but we’re such a forgiving people — at least when we want to be. And what we brushed off was essentially foreshadowed in his own art. You don’t know Ye if you don’t recall him echoing how great he is.
“Lauryn Hill said her heart was in Zion/I wish her heart still was in rhymin’/ Cause who the kids gon listen to? I guess me, if it isn’t you,”
questioned the rapper on his “Champion” record. There’s irony in the rapper’s sentiment.
Ye resounded this sentiment over and over again. How he was the best, the people’s hero, someone who loved the kids.
But right out the gate on Graduation, Ye inspired and conspired to giving out hope to his listeners, spitting lines like,
“I’m like the fly Malcolm X, by any jeans necessary/ Detroit Red cleaned up/From the streets of the league, from an eighth to a key/But you graduate when you make it up/ outta the streets/From the moments of pain, look how far we done came/Haters say you changed, now you doing your thang.”
on his “Good Morning,” track. Or what about Late Registration? The “Drive Slow” Houston inspired sample kind of had a shorty shook, while “Crack Music” fired up a kid who was just figuring out that most of her public-school education was a sham. A lot of lying by omission shit. So, when Yeezy started rhyming with,
“How we stop the Black Panthers? Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer,”
I knew that the book bag-toting Ye was a force that my adolescence was trying to reckon with. His whole entire verse was straight fire and it poked and prodded at this blooming truth-seeker within.
But the death of a hero is ultimately upon us all, and I feel like we can’t just front like that version of Ye never meant anything to the culture; to us.
So, I say all of this to prelude a lament for Yeezy. Because I’m in mourning for the vessel that tapped into the collective conscious of a people and represented our ancestors for a moment in time. No doubt, Yeezus’ work displayed a reverence for what came before his Chi-town beginnings and with a sort of brilliance, at that. Nonetheless, his music and hold-nothing-back approach was commendable. If anything, black folk are worthy of the type of leadership that will not only uphold the truth but will rally for her with unwavering conviction in trying times, which have never truly ceased.
So, let’s bump our favorite Yeezy classics the way entire hoods bumped Mike’s music when he passed on. And we’ll burn a white candle in honor of his gifts to black music and make a wish under the moon that the spirit that once championed for the unheard voices rests easy, wherever it may be.